Paul and Silas in Thessalonica
Paul and Silas then traveled through the towns of Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he used the Scriptures to reason with the people. He explained the prophecies and proved that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead. He said, “This Jesus I’m telling you about is the Messiah.”
Some of the Jews who listened were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with many God-fearing Greek men and quite a few prominent women. But some of the Jews were jealous, so they gathered some troublemakers from the marketplace to form a mob and start a riot. They attacked the home of Jason, searching for Paul and Silas so they could drag them out to the crowd. Not finding them there, they dragged out Jason and some of the other believers instead and took them before the city council. “Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world,” they shouted, “and now they are here disturbing our city, too. And Jason has welcomed them into his home. They are all guilty of treason against Caesar, for they profess allegiance to another king, named Jesus.”
The people of the city, as well as the city council, were thrown into turmoil by these reports. So the officials forced Jason and the other believers to post bond, and then they released them.Acts 17:1-9
Paul and Silas in Berea
That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men. But when some Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God in Berea, they went there and stirred up trouble. The believers acted at once, sending Paul on to the coast, while Silas and Timothy remained behind. Those escorting Paul went with him all the way to Athens; then they returned to Berea with instructions for Silas and Timothy to hurry and join him.Acts 17:10-15
Paul in Athens
While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city. He went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and he spoke daily in the public square to all who happened to be there. He also had a debate with some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. When he told them about Jesus and his resurrection, they said, “What’s this babbler trying to say with these strange ideas he’s picked up?” Others said, “He seems to be preaching about some foreign gods.”
Then they took him to the high council of the city. “Come and tell us about this new teaching,” they said. “You are saying some rather strange things, and we want to know what it’s all about.” (It should be explained that all the Athenians as well as the foreigners in Athens seemed to spend all their time discussing the latest ideas.)Acts 17:16-21
Paul’s Speech at the Areopagus
So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about. He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need.
From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone. God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”Acts 17:22-31
The Reactions of the Athenians
When they heard Paul speak about the resurrection of the dead, some laughed in contempt, but others said, “We want to hear more about this later.” That ended Paul’s discussion with them, but some joined him and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the council, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.Acts 17:32-34
A number of you responded to tell me you wouldn’t be doing the things I suggested to you to do as “homework” because it was Queen’s Birthday and you wouldn’t have time. Believe me I know the feeling. But the point is perhaps Queen’s Birthday was the perfect weekend to do it because you have more time. Frankly if you are trapped in the daily routine then you also don’t have time. Sometimes to get more out of something you need to put more into it. You will notice Paul and Silas have encountered three different sorts of people within the scope of this one chapter. The Thessalonians, the Bereans and the Athenians. To sum them up, they include people the like as he has met before, some people who are probably my favourites in all of Scripture and some others who are different again. I am sure those who know me well can work out who my favourite people are.
You also know by now that Amphipolis and Apollonia were not on Paul’s radar. They merely passed through those places heading to Thessalonica. Well isn’t that curious that Paul could pass by some places and concentrate on others. He didn’t stop and preach the gospel in every place he came to. For those of you who did take the time to read Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians did you notice something curious? There are very interesting differences between the two letters. Perhaps I won’t tell you what those differences are just yet, but merely point out that the two letters are very different. I suspect some of you may well take the time to read today on the holiday. Or maybe I am dreaming. They say the young men see visions and the old men dream. That proves it doesn’t it. Look for the differences when you read them.
What I will do today is give you more time to read Acts 17 again if you will and read it with the two Pauline letters to the Thessalonians. Aren’t you glad at this moment that Paul didn’t write letters to the people in Berea and Athens – 1st and 2nd Bereans and Athenians? If he had I would only be dealing with Thessalonians now and saving 1 and 2 Bereans and Athenians for following Gems. I am kind, not that you would notice that. I will however give you the pages from Paul’s Traveling Companions Guide.
Position and Name:
One of the chief towns of Macedonia from Hellenistic times down to the present day. It lies in 40 degrees 40 minutes North latitude, and 22 degrees 50 minutes East longitude, at the northernmost point of the Thermaic Gulf (Gulf of Salonica), a short distance to the East of the mouth of the Axius (Vardar). It is usually maintained that the earlier name of Thessalonica was Therma or Therme, a town mentioned both by Herodotus(vii. 121 ff, 179 ff) and by Thucydides (i. 61; ii. 29), but that its chief importance dates from about 315 BC, when the Macedonian king Cassander, son of Antipater, enlarged and strengthened it by concentrating there the population of a number of neighbouring towns and villages, and renamed it after his wife Thessalonica, daughter of Philip II and step-sister of Alexander the Great. This name, usually shortened since medieval times to Salonica or Saloniki, it has retained down to the present. Pliny, however, speaks of Therma as still existing side by side with Thessalonica (NH, iv. 36), and it is possible that the latter was an altogether new foundation, which took from Therma a portion of its inhabitants and replaced it as the most important city on the Gulf.
Thessalonica rapidly became populous and wealthy. In the war between Perseus and the Romans it appears as the headquarters of the Macedonian navy (Livy xliv. 10) and when, after the battle of Pydna (168 BC), the Romans divided the conquered territory into four districts, it became the capital of the second of these (Livy xlv. 29), while later, after the organization of the single Roman province of Macedonia in 146 BC, it was the seat of the governor and thus practically the capital of the whole province. In 58 BC Cicero spent the greater part of his exile there, at the house of the quaestor Plancius (Pro Plancio41, 99; Epistle Ad Att, iii. 8-21). In the civil war between Caesar and Pompey, Thessalonica took the senatorial side and formed one of Pompey’s chief bases (49-48 BC), but in the final struggle of the republic, six years later, it proved loyal to Antony and Octavian, and was rewarded by receiving the status and privileges of a “free city” (Pliny, NH, iv. 36). Strabo, writing in the reign of Augustus, speaks of it as the most populous town in Macedonia and the metropolis of the province (vii. 323, 330), and about the same time the poet Antipater, himself a native of Thessalonica, refers to the city as “mother of all Macedon” (Jacobs, Anthol. Graec., II, p. 98, number 14); in the 2nd century of our era Lucian mentions it as the greatest city of Macedonia (Asinus, 46). It was important, not only as a harbor with a large import and export trade, but also as the principal station on the great Via Egnatia, the highway from the Adriatic to the Hellespont.
Paul visited the town, together with Silas and Timothy, on his 2nd missionary journey. He had been at Philippi, and traveled thence by the Egnatian Road, passing through Amphipolis and Apollonia on the way (Act 17:1). He found at Thessalonica a synagogue of the Jews, in which for three successive Sabbaths he preached the gospel, basing his message upon the types and prophecies of the Old Testament Scriptures (Act 17:2, Act 17:3). Some of the Jews became converts and a considerable number of proselytes and Greeks, together with many women of high social standing (Act 17:4). Among these converts were in all probability Aristarchus and Secundus, natives of Thessalonica, whom we afterward find accompanying Paul to Asia at the close of his 3rd missionary journey (Act 20:4). The former of them was, indeed, one of the apostle’s most constant companions; we find him with Paul at Ephesus (Act 19:29) and on his journey to Rome (Act 27:2), while in two of his Epistles, written during his captivity, Paul refers to Aristarchus as still with him, his fellow-prisoner (Col 4:10; Phm 1:24). Gaius, too, who is mentioned in conjunction with Aristarchus, may have been a Thessalonian (Act 19:29). How long Paul remained at Thessalonica on his 1st visit we cannot precisely determine; certainly we are not to regard his stay there as confined to three weeks, and Ramsay suggests that it probably extended from December, 50 AD, to May, 51 AD (St. Paul the Traveler, 228). In any case, we learn that the Philippines sent him assistance on two occasions during the time which he spent there (Php 4:16), although he was “working night and day” to maintain himself (1Th 2:9; 2Th 3:8). Paul, the great missionary strategist, must have seen that from no other center could Macedonia be permeated with the gospel so effectively as from Thessalonica (1Th 1:8).
But his success roused the jealousy of the Jews, who raised a commotion among the dregs of the city populace (Act 17:5). An attack was made on the house of Jason, with whom the evangelists were lodging, and when these were not found Jason himself and some of the other converts were dragged before the magistrates and accused of harboring men who had caused tumult throughout the Roman world, who maintained the existence of another king, Jesus, and acted in defiance of the imperial decrees. The magistrates were duly alive to the seriousness of the accusation, but, since no evidence was forthcoming of illegal practices on the part of Jason or the other Christians, they released them on security (Act 17:5-9). Foreseeing further trouble if Paul should continue his work in the town, the converts sent Paul and Silas (and possibly Timothy also) by night to Berea, which lay off the main road and is referred to by Cicero as an out-of-the-way town (oppidum devium: in Pisonem36). The Berean Jews showed a greater readiness to examine the new teaching than those of Thessalonica, and the work of the apostle was more fruitful there, both among Jews and among Greeks (Act 17:10-13). But the news of this success reached the Thessalonian Jews and inflamed their hostility afresh. Going to Berea, they raised a tumult there also, and made it necessary for Paul to leave the town and go to Athens (Act 17:14, Act 17:15).
Several points in this account are noteworthy as illustrating the strict accuracy of the narrative of the Acts. Philippi was a Roman town, military rather than commercial; hence, we find but few Jews there and no synagogue; the magistrates bear the title of praetors (Act 16:20, Act 16:22, Act 16:35, Act 16:36, Act 16:38 the Revised Version margin) and are attended by lictors (Act 16:35, Act 16:38 the Revised Version margin); Paul and Silas are charged with the introduction of customs which Romans may not observe (Act 16:21); they are beaten with rods (Act 16:22) and appeal to their privileges as Roman citizens (16:37, 38). At Thessalonica all is changed. We are here in a Greek commercial city and a seaport, a “free city,” moreover, enjoying a certain amount of autonomy and its own constitution. Here we find a large number of resident Jews and a synagogue. The charge against Paul is that of trying to replace Caesar by another king; the rioters wish to bring him before “the people,” i.e. the popular assembly characteristic of Greek states, and the magistrates of the city bear the Greek name of politarchs (Act 17:5-9). This title occurs nowhere in Greek literature, but its correctness is proved beyond possibility of question by its occurrence in a number of inscriptions of this period, which have come to light in Thessalonica and the neighborhood, and will be found collected in AJT (1898, 598) and in M. G. Dimitsas, (Μακεδονία, Makedonia), 422 ff. Among them the most famous is the inscription engraved on the arch which stood at the western end of the main street of Salonica and was called the Vardar Gate. The arch itself, which was perhaps erected to commemorate the victory of Philippi, though some authorities assign it to a later date, has been removed, and the inscription is now in the British Museum (CIG, 1967; Leake, Northern Greece, III, 236; Le Bas, Voyage archeologique, number 1357; Vaux, Trans. Royal Sec. Lit., VIII, 528). This proves that the politarchs were six in number, and it is a curious coincidence that in it occur the names Sosipater, Gaius and Secundus, which are berate by three Macedonian converts, of whom the first two were probably Thessalonians, the last certainly.
The Thessalonian Church:
The Thessalonian church was a strong and flourishing one, composed of Gentiles rather than of Jews, if we may judge from the tone of the two Epistles addressed to its members, the absence of quotations from and allusions to the Old Testament, and the phrase “Ye turned unto God from idols” (1Th 1:9; compare also 1Th 2:14). These, by common consent the earliest of Paul’s Epistles, show us that the apostle was eager to revisit Thessalonica very soon after his enforced departure: “once and again” the desire to return was strong in him, but “Satan hindered” him (1Th 2:18) – a reference probably to the danger and loss in which such a step would involve Jason and the other leading converts. But though himself prevented from continuing his work at Thessalonica, he sent Timothy from Athens to visit the church and confirm the faith of the Christians amid their hardships and persecutions (1Th 3:2-10). The favorable report brought back by Timothy was a great comfort to Paul, and at the same time intensified his longing to see his converts again (1Th 3:10, 1Th 3:11). This desire was to be fulfilled more than once. Almost certainly Paul returned there on his 3rd missionary journey, both on his way to Greece (Act 20:1) and again while he was going thence to Jerusalem (Act 20:3); it is on this latter occasion that we hear of Aristarchus and Secundus accompanying him (Act 20:4). Probably Paul was again in Thessalonica after his first imprisonment. From the Epistle to the Philippians (Act 1:26; Act 2:24), written during his captivity, we learn that his intention was to revisit Philippi if possible, and 1Ti 1:3 records a subsequent journey to Macedonia, in the course of which the apostle may well have made a longer or shorter stay at Thessalonica. The only other mention of the town in the New Testament occurs in 2Ti 4:10, where Paul writes that Demas has forsaken him and has gone there. Whether Demas was a Thessalonian, as some have supposed, cannot be determined.
For centuries the city remained one of the chief strongholds of Christianity, and it won for itself the title of “the Orthodox City,” not only by the tenacity and vigor of its resistance to the successive attacks of various barbarous races, but also by being largely responsible for their conversion to Christianity. From the middle of the 3rd century AD it was entitled “metropolis and colony,” and when Diocletian (284-305) divided Macedonia into two provinces, Thessalonica was chosen as the capital of the first of these. It was also the scene in 390 AD of the famous massacre ordered by Theodosius the Great, for which Ambrose excluded that emperor for some months from the cathedral at Milan. In 253 the Goths had made a vain attempt to capture the city, and again in 479 Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, found it so strong and well prepared that he did not venture to attack it. From the 6th to the 9th century it was engaged in repeated struggles against Avars, Slavonians and Bulgarians, whose attacks it repelled with the utmost difficulty. Finally, in 904 AD it was captured by the Saracens, who, after slaughtering a great number of the inhabitants and burning a considerable portion of the city, sailed away carrying with them 22,000 captives, young men, women and children. In 1185, when the famous scholar Eustathius was bishop, the Normans under Tancred stormed the city, and once more a general massacre took place. In 1204 Thessalonica became the center of a Latin kingdom under Boniface, marquis of Monferrat, and for over two centuries it passed from hand to hand, now ruled by Latins now by Greeks, until in 1430 it fell before the sultan Amurath II. After that time it remained in the possession of the Turks, and it was, indeed, the chief European city of their dominions, with the exception of Constantinople, until it was recaptured by the Greeks in the Balkan war of 1912. Its population includes some 32,000 Turks, 47,000 Jews (mostly the descendants of refugees from Spain) and 16,000 Greeks and other Europeans. The city is rich in examples of Byzantine ecclesiastical architecture and art, and possesses, in addition to a large number of mosques, 12 churches and 25 synagogues.
Position and Name:
Beroea was a city of the Hellenic and Roman era which is now known as Veria in Macedonia, in northern GreeceIt was a small city on the eastern side of the Vermion Mountains north of Mt Olympus. It’s a town of southwestern Macedonia, in the district of Emathia. It lay at the foot of Mt. Bermius, on a tributary of the Haliacmon, and seems to have been an ancient town, though the date of its foundation is uncertain.
A passage in Thucydides relating to the year 432 bc probably refers to another place of the same name, but an inscription proves its existence at the end of the 4th century bc, and it is twice mentioned by Polybius. After the battle of Pydba in 168 bc Berea was the first city to surrender to Rome and fell in the third of the four regions into which Macedonia was divided (Livy xliv.45; xlv.29).
Paul and Silas came to Berea from Thessalonica which they had been forced by an uproar to leave, and preached in the synagogue to the Jews, many of whom believed after a candid examination of the apostolic message in the light of their Scriptures (Act 17:10, Act 17:11). A number of “Gr women of honorable estate and of men” also believed, but the advent of a body of hostile Jews from Thessalonica created a disturbance in consequence of which Paul had to leave the city, though Silas and Timothy stayed there for a few days longer (Act 17:12-15). Perhaps the Sopater of Berea who accompanied Paul to Asia on his last journey to Jerusalem was one of his converts on this visit (Act 20:4).
Berea, which was one of the most populous cities of Macedonia early became a bishopric under the metropolitan of Thessalonica and was itself made a metropolis by Andronicus II (1283-1328): there is a tradition that the first bishop of the church was Onesimus. It played a prominent part in the struggles between the Greeks and the Bulgarians and Serbs, and was finally conquered by the Turks in 1373-74. The town, which still bears among the Greeks its ancient name (pronounced Verria) though called by the Turks Karaferia, possesses but few remains of antiquity with the exception of numerous inscriptions (Leake, Travels in Northern Greece, III, 290 if; Cousinéry, Voyage dans la Macédoine, I, 57ff; Dimitsas, Makedonia in Greek, 57ff).
In antiquity the celebrated metropolis of Attica, now the capital of Greece. Two long walls, 250 ft. apart, connected the city with the harbor (Peiraeus). In Acts 17 we are told what Paul did during his single sojourn in this famous city. He came up from the sea by the new road (North of the ancient) along which were altars of unknown gods, entered the city from the West, and passed by the Ceramicus (burial-ground), which can be seen to this day, the “Theseum,” the best preserved of all Greek temples, and on to the Agora (Market-Place), just North of the Acropolis, a steep hill, 200 ft. high, in the center of the city.
Cimon began and Pericles completed the work of transforming this citadel into a sanctuary for the patron goddess of the city. The magnificent gateway (Propylaea), of which the Athenians were justly proud, was built by Mnesicles (437-432 bc). A monumental bronze statue by Phidias stood on the left, as one emerged on the plateau, and the mighty Parthenon a little further on, to the right. In this temple was the famous gold and ivory statue of Athena. The eastern pediment contained sculptures representing the birth of the goddess (Elgin Marbles, now in the British Museum), the western depicting her contest with Poseidon for supremacy over Attica. This, the most celebrated edifice, architecturally, in all history, was partially destroyed by the Venetians in 1687. Other temples on the Acropolis are the Erechtheum and the “Wingless Victory.” In the city the streets were exceedingly narrow and crooked. The wider avenues were called plateı́ai, whence English “place,” Spanish “plaza.” The roofs of the houses were flat. In and around the Agora were many porticoes stoaı́̌. In the Painted Portico, whose walls were covered with historical paintings, Paul met with the successors of Zeno, the Stoics, with whom he disputed daily. In this vicinity also was the Senate Chamber for the Council of Five Hundred, and the Court of the Areopagus, whither Socrates came in 399 bc to face his accusers, and where Paul, five centuries later, preached to the Athenians “the unknown God.” In this neighborhood also were the Tower of the Winds and the water-clock, which must have attracted Paul’s attention, as they attract our attention today.
The apostle disputed in the synagogue with the Jews (Act 17:17), and a slab found at the foot of Mount Hymettus (a range to the East of the city, 3,000 ft. high), with the inscription from Psalm 118:20 once thought to indicate the site, but is now believed to date from the 3rd or 4th century. Slabs bearing Jewish inscriptions have been found in the city itself.
The population of Athens was at least a quarter of a million. The oldest inhabitants were Pelasgians. Athens played an important role even under Roman sway – she became the university city of the Roman world, and from her radiated spiritual light and intellectual energy to Tarsus, Antioch and Alexandria. Philo, the Jew, declares that the Athenians were keenest in intellect and adds that Athens was to Greece what the pupil is to the eye, or reason to the soul. Although the city had lost her real independence, the people retained their old characteristics: they were still interested in art, literature and philosophy. Paul may possibly have attended theater of Dionysus (under the Southeast cliff of the Acropolis) and witnessed a play of the Greek poets, such as Euripides or Menander. Many gifts were received from foreign monarchs by Athens. Attalus I of Pergamum endowed the Academy, Eumenes added a splendid Stoa to theater and Antiochus Epiphanes began the Olympeium (15 columns of which are still standing), the massive sub-basement of which had been constructed by Pisistratus. Athens became a favorite residence for foreign writers who cultivated history, geography and literature. Horace, Brutus and Cassius sojourned in the city for some time. Josephus declares that the Athenians were the most god-fearing of the Greeks.
A man may learn wisdom even from a foe. You should not decide until you hear what both have to say.Aristophanes
Always desire to learn something useful. I prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.Sophocles
The difficulty is not so great to die for a friend, as to find a friend worth dying for.Homer
Silence is true wisdom’s best reply.Euripides
The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man.Euripides
You rippa deze and I’ll rippa doze.Ian Vail